Forming Friendships

Making friends can initially be one of the most difficult aspects of living abroad. Eventually, it will also be one of the most rewarding. Returned students suggest getting involved: volunteering, joining clubs or sports, visiting dance clubs and cafes, etc. Be prepared to take the initiative and to be friendly. You may make friends at the bus stop, grocery store, gym, etc. Also consider all the different relationships you will form with the people around you, even though you may not consider them your “friends.” Going to the same café where the same person serves you every day or buying the local newspaper from the same stand where the same person works all week is a common type of relationship students form while abroad. They are routine and comfortable and offer a lot of the same benefits as other relationships do and should be equally valued with your friendship relationships

For many people you meet abroad, you will be “the American.” They will ask you a lot of questions about the United States, and you will want to be able to answer. Again, read the newspaper and be aware of what is going on. Re-familiarize yourself with the names of people in our government and its workings, as it is mostly likely that locals in your host country know more about your country than you do, especially with regards to foreign policy. Students in other countries are often more politically aware than we are here. New friends or even strangers may involve you in heated political discussions. You may be faced with some anti-American feelings and certain stereotypes of the “American.” Visit our “Americanness” section to see how something as simple as where you were born affects your experience abroad.

Most of all, just have fun!  Get out and go to museums, the opera, a soccer (or football) game or a historic café for a good bookread.  Take a walk by yourself, observe, explore a new part of town. Write everything down in a journal so you can reread it in six months, or twenty years.